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  • Archive for December, 2010

    Drake Hotel Christmas

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 5th December 2010 (All posts by )

    Recently I was at the Drake Hotel on Michigan avenue near the top of the Magnificent Mile when I took some holiday photos. I really like the Drake dragon he pops out of the frame.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Photos | 3 Comments »


    Posted by Jonathan on 5th December 2010 (All posts by )

    pink Cadillac

    Cruise the information highway with the Chicagoboyz.


    Posted in Photos | 4 Comments »

    A brief fugue on the graphics of coexistence

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 4th December 2010 (All posts by )

    A great many people will have seen (or designed) some variant of the “coexist” bumper-sticker / tee-shirt design:


    — the first of which can be found on acsapple‘s photobucket — and hey, the “aum” sign for “oe” is a brilliant bit of graphic substitution! – while I nabbed the second here.

    What with a thousand flowers blooming, the importance of preserving memetic variations, peaceful coexistence and all, it’s only natural that some will have different takes on the matter —

    coexist variants

    — the first of these comes from the blog of a gun-toting political refugee from the People’s Progressive Republic of Massachusetts, while the second is a tee-shirt design by Matt Lussier, and you can get your tee-shirt here


    As for myself, I have fond memories of India, and was accordingly heartened to see this on an Indian Muslim site

    india calling-religious unity

    which is what set me thinking about “coexistence” graphics in the first place.


    Did I ever tell you about the sign I saw over a shop in Delhi, advertising the sale of mythelated spirits?

    I frequently feel just a tad mythelated myself.

    Posted in Advertising, India, Islam, Judaism, Religion | 23 Comments »

    Movie/Book Review: The Awakening Land

    Posted by David Foster on 4th December 2010 (All posts by )

    The Awakening Land is a made-for-TV movie which first aired in 1978 and has only very recently been released for home viewing. Shortly after the American Revolution, the Lucketts, a backwoods family from Pennsylvania, travel to create a new home for themselves on the Ohio frontier. We first meet Sayward Luckett (Elizabeth Montgomery), the central character, as a 15-year-old girl. Although Sayward is completely illiterate, she marries the most erudite man to be found in the vicinity: Portius Wheeler (Hal Holbrook), aka “the solitary,” a former Massachussetts lawyer and an agnostic. The story follows Sayward, her family, and her neighbors from the early days of sparse settlement up through the creation of a thriving town.

    A wonderful film, highly recommended. The movie was based on Conrad Richter’s trilogy The Trees, The Fields, and The Town. The books are also excellent…reading the first two of the series, it struck me that Richter is better at descriptions of the natural environment than at describing the inner life of the characters–however, this changes noticeably in the third book, where the characters become much more fully-developed. The books are also very much worth reading.

    Posted in Book Notes, Film, History, USA | 5 Comments »

    Update: Wikileaks and Cryptographic Mythology

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 4th December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    It seems my intuition of a Lovecraft connection with WikiLeaks was right, as was Jean’s suggestion that the MARUTUKKU quote is “more specific and extensive and ‘mythological'” than the translations of Enuma Elish she’d found on the net. I dropped Anders Sandberg a line letting him know I’d quoted him in my earlier post, and he graciously responded with this clarification of the mystery:

    I think the MARUTUKKU name/description is from the Simon Necronomicon, which did its best to shoehorn mythology into the mythos, and might explain the different translation. Of course, one might argue that that book is a real, a hoax posing as real, real posing as a hoax, or both at the same time.

    Anders, currently a staff member with the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford (which name strikingly reminds me of the Bright Futures Institute in Qom, Oxford’s parallel in the Iranian universe), is also known for his writings on Mage: the Ascension and other role-playing games — see for instance this account of the Asatru in M:tA.


    Bryan Alexander Steve Burnett

    The bearded, theremin-wielding mage Steve Burnett [left] also noted the origin of the MARUTUKKU quote in the Simon Necronomicon in his comment on my no-less-bearded mage-friend [right] Bryan Alexander‘s blog Infocult — which features a rich vein of gothic imaginings and runs with the subtitle “We haunt every medium we make”.

    My warm regards to all…

    Posted in Diversions, Iran, Philosophy | 14 Comments »

    The Unbelievably Fast Fall From Grace

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 4th December 2010 (All posts by )

    I follow sports more than most people, but less than some. One of the most fascinating areas of sport for me is how quickly professional athletes can burn through their fortunes – and end up completely broke after their careers are over.

    With most professional athletes, a five year career is all they get. Imagine yourself after you graduated high school or college and knowing up front that your best earning years are coming up. Wouldn’t you be putting something away for the future rather then spending that dough on assets that are devalued the second you buy them, such as bouncy cars and jewelry?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, That's NOT Funny | 17 Comments »


    Posted by onparkstreet on 4th December 2010 (All posts by )

    Cromagnum, in response to my post on Chesterton, has posted a useful and informative comment here. It reads, in part (an excerpt from Eugenics and Other Evils follows):

    The Socialist system, in a more special sense than any other, is founded not on optimism but on original sin. It proposes that the State, as the conscience of the community, should possess all primary forms of property; and that obviously on the ground that men cannot be trusted to own or barter or combine or compete without injury to themselves. Just as a State might own all the guns lest people should shoot each other, so this State would own all the gold and land lest they should cheat or rackrent or exploit each other. It seems extraordinarily simple and even obvious; and so it is. It is too obvious to be true. But while it is obvious, it seems almost incredible that anybody ever thought it optimistic.

    Pundita has written a tour de force response to my post on Senator Richard Lugar: “Wikileaks plus first disbursements from 2009 US aid bill for Pakistan already under scrutiny for graft. Senator Richard Lugar please take note.”

    In a wide ranging post, she makes note of three key issues:

    1. Congressional oversight: If you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around the concept that vital information would be withheld from key congressional defense/intelligence committees — which can’t make informed recommendations without such data — while thousands of low-level civilian government and military employees had access to the data, you should listen to the interview; it’s enough to make your blood boil if you’re an American.

    2. Allegations of corruption in the distribution of aid monies: Two months after his remarks came the news that even the first small disbursements were already in trouble due to charges of corruption. Because aid monies disbursed to the Pakistani government become the sovereign property of the government and thus immune to oversight the 2009 aid bill aimed to get around the problem by disbursing the money to NGOs. The workaround simply opened another avenue for graft:

    3. The sometimes head-scratching priorities and decision-making of American officials: Yet the revelation doesn’t fully explain why the U.S. military and executive and congressional branches have consistently made bad calls on Pakistan because this has been going on for more than a half century — ever since the U.S. first became involved with Pakistan. Yet these bad calls weren’t seen as such until NATO floundered in Afghanistan. That finally put a crimp in the style of Washington’s anti-Russia crowd but over decades the crowd and its counterpart in Europe looked the other way while Pakistan ran riot because they saw the country as a weapon first against the Soviet Union then against Russia.

    No matter who wins the presidential election in 2012, I wager that many of the structural problems that have plagued our foreign policy in recent years will remain. One of the most appealing aspects of the Tea Party movement is its “pay attention!” ethos. Complain about elites all you want, they can’t cause so many problems if we citizens are performing our own oversight functions.

    Update: Thanks for the link, Professor Reynolds!

    There are some very good comments in the comments section. I will try and respond more fully at a later date.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Society, Conservatism, Elections, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Society | 10 Comments »

    A DoubleQuote for Anders

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 3rd December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    One of my hobbies is finding apposite quotes to juxtapose — I call them DoubleQuotes and think of them as twin pebbles dropped into the mind-pool for the pleasure of watching the ripples…

    And I particulartly enjoy it when one of my DoubleQuotes manages to span different sensory streams — aural, visual, verbal, numerical, cinematic — as here, with text and image.

    This one’s for Anders Sandberg.


    I’d been carrying around the quote from WikiLeaks for a few days, but it was running across the Dresden Codak via Anders’ Andart blog today that gave me the second “dot” to connect with the first.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Diversions, Iran, Islam, Philosophy, Quotations | 5 Comments »

    Drinking Your Way Through The Holidays

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 3rd December 2010 (All posts by )

    Posted in Humor, Photos | 5 Comments »

    Tagging for Freedom

    Posted by Shannon Love on 2nd December 2010 (All posts by )

    This little Israeli prank in Iran reminded me of a conversation I had with my son about North Korea.

    After the recent artillery attack against South Korea, my son asked why we just didn’t hammer them in response. I explained that (1) the North Koreans had most of Seoul under heavy artillery threat and (2) they were absolutely insane. A serious military attack might cause a wildly disproportionate retaliation that could cause the deaths of thousands of South Koreans.

    I told him that I was always myself in favor of psyops. These types of regimes persist because they create a mythology of omniscience and omnipotence within their own population. Undermining that mythology can cause the state to collapse.

    The North Koreans have this giant statue of the glorious leader in downtown Pyongyang. I’ve always thought that shooting a cruise missile right into the crotch of the statue would undermining the mythology and send a pointed message. However, even that might provoke a violent response. Moreover, the North Koreans quite clearly use external threats to justify their oppressive state to their own population. Attacking them violently might reinforce, instead of undermine, the mythology.

    My son thought a moment and came up with a better idea: tagging, i.e., graffiti.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Israel, Korea, Military Affairs, Terrorism | 15 Comments »

    Wikileaks and the Search for a Cryptographic Mythology

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 2nd December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    Jean Rosenfeld of the UCLA Center for the Study of Religion just posted a comment on an earlier Zenpundit post of mine, opening up a topic which may interest some readers here: that of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s mythological associations.


    Jean had earlier pointed me to Assange’s use of the name “Marutukku” to describe his encryption program, and a little fishing brought me to these two Assange-related documents:

    One Man’s Search for a Cryptographic Mythology
    Enuma Elish


    I’d been idly wondering about cryptographic mythology myself, as it happens, nudged by vague memories of a cache of porno images tweaked by jihadists as encoding devices for steganography.

    Steganography is the cryptographic – or is it kabbalistic? — art devised by one Abbot Trithemius, whose 1518 Polygraphia is the first work on cryptography printed in Europe, and whose Steganographia was known in MS to such hermetic philosophers as Cornelius Agrippa, Giordano Bruno and John Dee. Jim Reeds captures the ambiguity of Trithemius’ work nicely in his paper, Solved: The Ciphers in Book III of Trithemius’s Steganographia, when he asks:

    Is it [the Steganographia] primarily an exposition of cryptographic techniques disguised as angel magic, or is it primarily a magic work disguised as cryptography?

    Readers of Frances Yates and Ioan Couliano will be somewhat familiar with these matters.

    And jihadist steganography? The technique itself is described in the al-Fajr Information Center’s Technical Mujahid magazine of Feb. 2007 according to a Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor piece, but the reports of actual jihadist use of the technique may turn out to be fabrications.


    But it was Julian Assange‘s bliss we were trying to follow, right?

    Assange sidekick Suelette Dreyfus wrote The Idiot Savants’ Guide to Rubberhose — which is the manual for Assange’s crypto program… but this business of naming the program gets complicated, eh?

    Dreyfus explains:

    If you’re wondering about the name of this program, Marutukku is the internal development name (it’s spelled Ru-b-b-e-r-h-o-s-e, but it’s pronounced M-a-r-u-t-u-k-k-u)

    In case you didn’t get it, there may be a play on Lewis Carroll there, and the exchange Alice has with the White Knight in Through the Looking-Glass as to what the name of a certain very sad song is called.

    Alice aside – and such detours are in fact the very method of discovery in non-linear thinking – Dreyfus offers as an epigraph to her piece the following quote:

    The third name is MARUTUKKU, Master of the arts of protection, chained the Mad God at the Battle. Sealed the Ancient Ones in their Caves, behind the Gates.

    which she attributes to “The Akkadian Creation Epic”. That would be the Enuma Elish.

    Assange, in his One Man’s Search for a Cryptographic Mythology, attributes his choice of the name Marutukku to a conversation he had with a friend concerning the Enuma Elish, telling us (after much other curious and wandering stuff) that his friend recommended the god Marduk’s third name to him, saying

    The third name is MARUTUKKU, Master of the arts of protection, chained the Mad God at the Battle. Sealed the Ancient Ones in their Caves, behind the Gates.

    Assange liked the idea, observing, “Even the very word MARUTUKKU looked like it had been run through a product cipher”.

    A little later in the same document, he quotes from the Enuma Elish, and the phrases given above appear in the quoted excerpts from that text – although they are not present in the version “Based on the translation of E. A. Speiser, with the additions by A. K. Grayson, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, third edition, edited by James Pritchard (Princeton, 1969), pp. 60-72; 501-503, with minor modifications” that Assange offers us on the sibling-page at Enuma Elish.

    As Dr. Rosenberg pointed out to me, “the quote — if it is a translation — differs from other translations I found on the Internet. It is more specific and extensive and ‘mythological.'”


    Okay, I’ve kept what may be the most practical (ie 21st century) “creative leap” made by my skittish and wandering mind for this, my penultimate paragraph.

    Oxford’s Anders Sandberg blogs today about Assange’s application of network theory to conspiracies, quoting Assange as saying:

    Conspiracies are cognitive devices. They are able to out think the same group of individuals acting alone Conspiracies take information about the world in which they operate (the conspiratorial environment), pass it around the conspirators and then act on the result. We can see conspiracies as a type of device that has inputs (information about the environment) and outputs (actions intending to change or maintain the environment).

    And Anders’ summary of Assange’s position? “In short, conspiracies are a kind of collective intelligence enhancement.”

    [ admission: I associate the name Anders Sandberg with some brilliant early net writings on role-playing games and the hermetic tradition – I’m hoping this is the same guy ]


    Finally, let’s go back to that enhancement of the Enuma Elish text. That phrase, “Sealed the Ancient Ones in their Caves, behind the Gates” struck me, too – it reminded me of the Chthulu Mythos of HP Lovecraft, and its apocalypse:

    That cult would never die until the stars came right again and the secret priests would take Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild, and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.

    And with that quote from Lovecraft, courtesy of Erik Davis, we have returned by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to the hermetically sealing and revealing world of John Dee.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, History, Human Behavior, Internet, Islam, Miscellaneous, Religion, Rhetoric, Tech, Terrorism | 3 Comments »

    Our Lost Competitiveness In Energy Construction

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 1st December 2010 (All posts by )

    Due to a failure of our “de-regulation” initiative (I put it in quotes because we just re-regulated differently) with energy the United States has basically ceased investing in base-load power plants, which are comprised of 1) nuclear 2) coal 3) large-scale hydroelectric.  Instead we have been generally just extending the lives of our existing assets and building natural gas fired peaking plants and letting our reserve margins erode.

    While this has many impacts to the United States over the long term (in the short term we benefit from lower rates as we delay the reckoning of having to invest massive amounts in capital construction in the future rather than starting it now and spreading it out over many years) one other extremely bad negative element has not been adequately discussed.  The United States is frankly losing any ability to construct or build nuclear or coal plants efficiently while China is using their scale and continued capital investment to refine construction techniques and standardize processes to build an industry that will be miles ahead of their US equivalent.

    The December, 2010 issue of the magazine “The Atlantic” has an article titled “Why the Future of Clean Energy is Dirty Coal”.  While I don’t share their focus on “clean” energy, they did have a section on the scale of investment in China that was staggering.  From the article:

    China is preparing, by 2025, for 350 million people that don’t exist now.  They have to build the equivalent of the US electrical system, that is almost as much added capacity as the entire US grid – by 2025.  It took us 120 years…As China meets its capacity, it is likely that the best technologies will be commercialized and applied here faster than everywhere else.

    In addition to the scale of their investment, their specific investments are also growing more advanced:

    For the last 30 years we have not been able to build a coal-to-gas conversion plant in this country… China has done many.  That is what we need to learn from them, all that production and operating experience.

    Why are they able to get so much done?  Well for one thing they don’t have a lawyer and regulation plagued “system” that adds billions (literally) to the cost of a plant without necessarily improving its efficiency or safety; and it punishes new designs that might be INHERENTLY safer than older, operating designs by limiting the ability to move forward in the first place.

    In America, it takes a decade to get a permit for a plant… Here, they build the whole thing in 21 months.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation | 11 Comments »


    Posted by Jonathan on 1st December 2010 (All posts by )


    Some Chicagoboyz are morning people.


    Posted in Photos | 3 Comments »

    “Why Does the Media Love to Pick On Palin?”

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st December 2010 (All posts by )

    John Lott gets it:

    Unfortunately, over the last couple of weeks, even conservative media pundits such as Mona Charen, Peggy Noonan, George Will, Joe Scarborough and Matt Labash see these attacks and warn that she can’t win the presidency. They even buy into the attacks on her judgment, intelligence, and competence. But what these conservatives don’t appreciate is that Palin is being attacked because she is smart and effective, not because she is dumb.
    [. . .]
    What Palin’s conservative critics need to recognize is that any other candidate who posed the same threat to Democrats would also be attacked as viciously. The desire to give up on Palin and move on to another potential Republican presidential nominee is understandable. But there is a reason why the media wants to take Palin out.

    His column is worth reading in full.

    Anyone who thinks that a turning away from Palin by libertarian/conservative/independent voters would bolster prospects for other Republicans is delusional. The abandonment under fire of a candidate by her erstwhile supporters would merely confirm the effectiveness of the media-Democratic strategy and encourage similar attacks against whichever remaining prospective Republican candidates appear to have the best chances of defeating Obama. Mitt Romney? The media love to treat him as the Republican front-runner when, in reality, his failure to repudiate his Massachusetts health-care “reform” disaster probably dooms his candidacy. But watch someone like Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie start to poll well against Obama and the smear machine will be turned on with full force. It’s already going after Christie with recycled bogus accusations of expense-account padding. No doubt if Daniels starts to poll well his eccentric marital history will be twisted to make him seem strange.

    Palin was an obscure libertarian governor with wide popularity in her home state before McCain picked her as his VP. Nobody cared about her except Alaskans and her national libertarian fans. As Lott points out, she was attacked because she is effective, not because of her supposed personal failings. (Did the media care about Obama’s personal failings?)

    Don’t believe for a moment that any Republican candidate who is half as politically effective as Palin is won’t get the same treatment that she has received. There may be valid reasons to reject her as a presidential candidate, but the fact that she has been the target of unprecedented smear campaigns isn’t one of them.

    Posted in Elections, Politics, The Press | 37 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st December 2010 (All posts by )

    And I don’t want no pussyfooting. You can’t succeed in tech by playing it safe, by taking baby steps. If you could, Sony and Microsoft would rule digital music. But they don’t, because they were so worried about rights holders, they forgot about users. And it’s all about users.
    The users used to be excited about music.
    Now they’re thrilled with offers on Groupon.
    Shopping has become exciting!
    Music is boring.

    Bob Lefsetz

    Posted in Business, Internet, Music, Quotations, Society, Tech | Comments Off on Quote of the Day